By Linc Gasking
As last year came to a close, I spent a lot of time thinking about our growth in 2016, what we accomplished, how our strategy has evolved, and most importantly, how our vision still holds true. Looking back at my first post around the time of our Series A news, the vision we shared of the evolution of media and human communications from 2D to 3D, is still very much our vision today.
“In the future Mom is going to drop into your kitchen for a quick chat before dinner — but this time teleporting in with 3D VR facetime…You’ll dance with Beyonce in your living room, virtually test drive a Tesla with Elon Musk, and watch your home team from your sofa with your favorite athlete by your side.” —from October 2015 post
At the time I wrote that piece, our team numbered 27 primarily based in Wellington, NZ, with a few of us in LA and in SF. It was so early days back then. We called our ‘beta’ LA studio “8i Labs” and weren’t certain about building out a permanent studio. Fast forward to today, and we’re now 75 strong; we’ve established “volumetric” video as the most immersive and scalable approach to creating photoreal VR and AR content; and most importantly, we’ve made major advancements in our holographic video technology, achieving significant improvement on fidelity of reconstruction and compression rate. 2016 was all about building our foundation — the team, technology and muscle — to get us ready for our next phase.
As we at 8i prepare to bring our holographic technology to market in 2017, we’re thrilled to announce new leadership, welcome world-class research talent as part of a new Seattle office, and establish a permanent US headquarters and studio in Los Angeles.
Leading our next phase of growth
I’m thrilled to announce that Steve Raymond will lead 8i as our new CEO and will join our board. Since joining us nine months ago as President of Studios, Steve has been a close partner and adviser to me and our management team, a respected and loved mentor to our employees, an unwavering believer in our mission and opportunity, and an unflappable leader and strategist in the face of complexity common in early stage startups. In leading our studio business, Steve doubled the growth of our team and established our fully operational professional studio, created and grew countless relationships with brand and content partners, as well as vastly improved information flow with our core technology team in Wellington. More on this later.
Steve is an exceptional leader, experienced operator, and pioneer in digital media. Prior to 8i, he founded Big Frame and, as CEO, grew it to to become the leading talent-management company and Multi-Channel Network (MCN) for online video creators, and led its acquisition by AwesomenessTV (DreamWorks Animation) in 2014. Previously, he also held leadership roles at Comcast Digital Entertainment, Yahoo! Music and Yahoo! Entertainment.
I’m excited to continue to partner with Steve to help shape product vision and build a scalable business as we continue on our path to enable the evolution of media and communication.
Continued investment in R&D
As we continue our steadfast focus on enabling the best quality volumetric human holograms under the leadership of my cofounder and 8i CTO Eugene d’Eon, I couldn’t be more honored to welcome our new world-class research hires who will be based out of our new Seattle office in Bellevue, Washington.
Last year, Eugene announced the hiring of our new Chief Science Officer, Charles Loop, who joined 8i from Microsoft where he was principal researcher. Charles is the inventor of Loop subdivision surfaces, Open SubDiv (used by Disney Pixar, etc) and the Holoportation project. Joining Charles in Seattle, are two exceptional researchers Phil Chou and Qin Cai.
Phil Chou joins 8i to lead compression research. He was previously a principal researcher at Microsoft Research working on immersive telepresence, and was also a Member of Technical Staff both at AT&T Bell Laboratories and the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Phil is a pioneer in compression of digital media having led the compression team for the first commercial video on demand over the Internet. Key findings in video compression today have come from his work. Qin was previously a senior research engineer at Microsoft where she worked on holoportation, eye tracking, face tracking, multi-view 3D reconstruction, and spatial audio. An accomplished computer vision researcher, Qin’s brings a passion for creating immersive technology to power human communication.
Working closely with our research team in New Zealand, the Seattle team is focused on advancing our holographic reconstruction and compression. Please take a moment to read these insightful posts from Charles and Phil about the opportunity ahead, and why they joined us on this journey. It’s an enormous validation of 8i’s technology and team to have such outstanding world-class researchers join our team.
Strengthening our commitment to our customers and partners
As 8i prepares to commercialize our technology and bring our first products to market in 2017, we plan to support the growth of our studio business and LA team with a new larger permanent US headquarters in Playa Vista, where we can better serve the growing demand of our customers and partners for holograms and volumetric capture studio facilities. We plan to make the move to our new space this summer.
Following our move to a temporary location in The Culver Studios in 2016, 8i Studios became fully operational, averaging 3–5 productions per week for talent and brands including Buzz Aldrin, Reggie Watts, LA Laker D’Angelo Russell, Gloria Steinem, Norman Lear, Time Inc, L’Oreal, Nonny de la Pena’s Emblematic Group, and others, with many more exciting projects to announce in 2017.
We’ve also expanded our teams in both LA — most recently with the addition of Nicole St Jean, who joined 8i from Twitter, as VP of content, and Andrew Turse, from Shazam, as Head of Sales — as well as Wellington, NZ where we doubled our office space in our existing location on Cambridge Terrace. The new offices and expansion will help support the continued growth of our teams.
As the world starts getting used to a new reality powered by technology breakthroughs in virtual, augmented and mixed reality, we’re excited to play a major role in a new era of media. Human performance has always driven new content paradigms. We’re certain that many of the as-yet unknowable killer applications that our partners will develop for X-realities will leverage the sense of presence and the powerful emotions that realistic humans holograms create. We’re more confident than ever that we’ve built a strong foundation in our leadership, team, and technology to take us forward on this path.